Living Columns & Blogs

On playdates

A friend of mine who lives ALL the way across the country from us recently lamented that she is bad about reciprocating playdates.

And part of this comes from the fact that they aren't "schedulers." Playdates are a reasonably new invention -- anything that wasn't around when I was a kid, has to be a new invention, right?

When I was a kid, our street was full of kids my own age. We ran up and down the street between houses, over to the park across the street and checked in on occasion at home, too. At any one point my mom either had five kids in her house, or none. Scheduling times for us to play with each other would have been laughed at.

I suspect that the advent of "playdates" has to do with a combination of increased fear of the awful things you hear about happening to children (which I don't even want to go into on my happy blog) as well as overscheduling our kids. Typically speaking, we are more protective of our brood than our parents were, and therefore unsupervised visits are not as easy to stomach. We need to know the other parents and it is always nice to have a little hang out time to make sure the supervising parent isn't pounding away vodka tonics. And to the other point, when everything else is scheduled in (swimming, French, soccer, ballet, umpteen birthday parties...) and around our work schedules, precious little time is left for actual play with other children. If we don't write it in, it will go by the wayside.

Playdates are part of my son's vocabulary. He knows we schedule time in advance to have other kids over. About a year ago, he took to scheduling his own playdates and even went so far as to invite Coach Brett (of Tumblebus and Garlands Gymnastics) to come over for a playdate. He had such a terrific time on the Tumblebus, why not extend it to a playdate? Coach is quick on his feet and suggested that his mommy call "Coach's" mommy to work out the details.

We tend to have playdates with the same close friends repeatedly. It is easy, we know each other, we know the expectations in each other’s homes, and we agree fundamentally in what is OK and what isn't.

Routinely, we remember other kids and their families and vow to have little "Jack" or "Sarah" over, sometimes even going so far as to talk to the parents and mutually agree, "We should get the kids together at some point." And then it never happens.

Overscheduled anyone? (You can't see, but both of my hands are raised.)

This is something my husband and I battle every couple months. We get tired of running here and there and our own home sometimes feeling foreign to us. I want my kids to wander around their own home, by themselves and be forced to use some of those toys Santa brought. It is hard not to sign the kids up for everything, we try to limit it to one activity at a time -- swimming or soccer, but not both. I expect that as our daughter gets older, this balancing act will not only become more imperative to maintain, but also more difficult to maintain.

How do you balance your household? Anyone else overscheduled?